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4 - Ethics in Governance

Apr 04, 2018

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    asymmetry of power in our society (even the lowliest of public servants are better off

    than most people in the country) and the citizen at the mercy of the State (Over

    regulation, near-monopoly of the government in many sectors and an economy o

    scarcity). It is generally recognized that monopoly and discretion increase the propensity

    to corruption while competition and transparency reduce corruption. A factor which

    increases corruption is over-centralization. Enforcement of rule of law and deterrent

    punishment against corruption are critical to build an ethically sound society.

    Some direct-indirect consequences of corruption: lower levels of investment as a share of the GDP

    invest very little in human capital and education

    low levels of mass participation in politics

    weak protection of civil liberties

    poor economic competitiveness

    poor institutionalization of the government

    What has been done to combat corruption?

    Traditionally, it has been done by using control systems- to detect, punish and curtaicorruption. Control systems can be of several types: the penalty rate, internal controls,

    external controls, and social control.

    Stringency of penalty may not necessarily provide the needed deterrence.

    The internal control system has not worked in India for several reasons.

    collusion at all levels of the government and a sharing of the gains from corruption

    investigating and prosecuting agencies are not independent of the executive

    government

    no mechanism to monitor the investigation process by a non-partisan, professiona

    body Single Directive, sanction for investigation etc.

    procedural snarls- there are twelve stages in a departmental action

    The external control system acts as a formal mechanism of restraint. It consists of an

    external auditand an independentjudiciary.

    Auditbeing post-mortem in nature has seriously belied the purpose for its institution.

    Thejudiciary, although independent, has not been able to act as an effective instrument

    of restraint for following reasons:

    not many corruption cases are brought before the courts for trial

    Prosecutorial system is weak and unprofessional - difficult to obtain evidence

    no judicial effectiveness - long delays in obtaining a decision

    For the judiciary to act as an effective instrument of restraint, four conditions should be

    met: - judicial independence, judicial enforcement, free access to the judiciary and

    judicial effectiveness. Only the last has been missing from India.

    Social Control: A strong and vigilant civil society can be a check on corruption and form

    the basis for countervailing action. Even the most comprehensive set of forma

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    democratic institutions may not be in a position to produce the needed accountability in

    the absence of a strong and vigilant civil society to energize them. Political

    embarrassment, social shaming, Social disapproval are some innovative ways that can

    prove deterrence.

    Ethics and Politics:

    Any discussion on an ethical framework for governance in a democracy must necessarilybegin with ethical values in politics. The most important determinant of the integrity of a

    society or the prevalence of corruption is the quality of politics. Politics and those

    engaged in it, play a vital role in the legislative and executive wings of the State. The

    standards set in politics profoundly influence those in other aspects of governance. If

    politics attracts and rewards integrity, competence and passion for public good, then the

    society is safe and integrity is maintained. But if honesty is incompatible with survival in

    politics, and if public life attracts undesirable and corrupt elements seeking private gain

    then abuse of authority and corruption become the norm. India was fortunate that high

    standards of ethical conduct were an integral part of the freedom struggle

    Unfortunately, ethical capital started getting eroded after the transfer of power

    Excesses in elections (in campaign-funding, use of illegitimate money, quantum of

    expenditure, imperfect electoral rolls, impersonation, booth-capturing, violence

    inducements and intimidation), floor-crossing after elections to get into power and abuse

    of power in public office became major afflictions of the political process over the years

    Politicization of bureaucracyand criminalization of politics together seem to constitute

    the major cause of all that ails in our polity today. Cleansing elections is the mos

    important route to improve ethical standards in politics, to curb corruption and rectify

    maladministration

    Reasons for deterioration of ethical standards in Politics:

    Criminalization of politics: Participation of criminals in the electoral process is the

    soft underbelly of our political system. The criminal who, paradoxically, is able to

    ensure speedy justice in some cases becomes almost a welcome character and

    on his part, builds on this acceptance and is emboldened to enter politics and

    elections. The opportunity to influence crime investigations and to convert the

    policemen from being potential adversaries to allies is the irresistible magnet

    drawing criminals to politics. For political parties, such individuals bring into the

    electoral process, their ability to secure votes through use of money and muscle

    power. Large, illegal and illegitimate expenditure in elections is another root cause

    of corruption.

    Illegal and illegitimate expenditure: Abnormal election expenditure has to be

    recouped in multiples to sustain the electoral cycle. If the demand for corruption is

    fuelled by inexhaustible appetite for illegitimate funds in politics, then othe

    avenues of corruption will be forcibly opened up. As a result, even as corruption

    declines in certain areas, it shifts to other, sometimes more dangerous, areas in

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    disregard of the common minimum programme. The Constitution should be

    amended to ensure seeking a fresh mandate from the electorate in such cases.

    Appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner/Commissioners: In recent times

    for statutory bodies such as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and

    the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), appointment of Chairperson and Members

    are made on the recommendations of a broad based Committee. A similar

    collegium can be appointed for selection of ECs.

    Expediting Disposal of Election Petitions: Election petitions in India are at present

    to be filed in the High Court. Under the Representation of the People Act, such

    petitions should be disposed of within a period of 6 months and trial should be

    conducted on day-to-day basis. In actual practice however, such petitions remain

    pending for years. The enormous irony of delay was brought home in the case of

    Congress MLA P. Veldurai, whose election to Cheranmahadevi in 2006 was set

    aside by the Supreme Court at a time when he was busy campaigning to be

    elected to another Tamil Nadu constituency in 2011Special Tribunals as provided

    for under Article 323B of the Constitution can ensure speedy disposal in light ofhuge workload of HCs and SC.

    Independence of EC: Unlike for the Staffs and general expenses of other

    constitutional bodies such as UPSC, for EC the expenses are not charged upon

    Consolidated Fund of India

    Other significant reforms can be introducing Right to Reject (not Right to Recall)

    ban on political advertisements by incumbent government six months before the

    election, ban on exit polls, rationalization of Model Code of Conduct.

    Government of India has prescribed a Code of Conduct which is applicable to Ministers

    of both the Union and State Governments. The Code of Conduct is a starting point for

    ensuring good conduct by Ministers. However, it is not comprehensive in its coverage

    and is more in the nature of a list of prohibitions; it does not amount to a Code of

    Ethics. It is therefore necessary that in addition to the Code of Conduct, there should be

    a Code of Ethics to provide guidance on how Ministers should uphold the highest

    standards of constitutional and ethical conduct in the performance of their duties.

    Ethics and legislators:

    Committee on Ethics exists in Lok Sabha as well as Rajya to oversee the moral and

    ethical conduct of members. Vohra Committee had recommended institution of such

    committee. These committees ask members to follow constitutionalism and also list out

    few prohibitions. Hence, it can be said that it enforces Code of Ethics as well as Code of

    Conduct. As per available information, only a few State Legislatures such as Andhra

    Pradesh, Orissa etc. have adopted Codes of Conduct for their Legislators. One way of

    avoiding conflict between public and private interest is through disclosure of ones

    interest. At present, where Rajya Sabha makes it mandatory for legislators to disclose

    interests before any discussion, Lok Sabha Speakers takes final decision to disqualify a

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    vote if conflict of interest is highlighted. Mandatory disclosure is

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